Online medication purchasing behaviour in pregnancy

  • Alison Little

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Many pregnant women present with or develop co-morbidities in pregnancy such as cardiac disease, diabetes or mental health issues and take at least one medication. The internet has provided the option for pregnant women to purchase medications online without healthcare advice. However, we do not know what factors or online features influence purchasing behaviour.
To explore factors influencing pregnant women’s intention to purchase medication online.
An exploratory descriptive design was used with multistage, mixed methods. Phase 1 was a cross-sectional online survey underpinned by the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB). Phase 2 involved three online focus groups conducted using asynchronous communication on closed Facebook groups exploring medication purchasing behaviour. Phase 3 used eye tracking technology and a think-aloud protocol to capture real time, online purchasing behaviour using simulation. Data were subject to descriptive, regression and correlation analyses. Ethical approval was obtained from Ulster University.
Analyses were conducted on 409 completed surveys. Women were from 20 countries and 24% had purchased medication online. Attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control explained 55% of the variance in purchasing intention.
Phase 2 involved three online focus groups with 23 women from six countries. Strong predictive factors influencing purchasing behaviour included the importance of rapid retrieval of information, convenience and cost-effectiveness. Online purchasing enabled women to avoid consultations with healthcare providers and helped them feel more in control.
In phase 3, 33 women participated in the eye tracking study. Women’s online choices were influenced by their previous medication experience, product reviews, star ratings, familiarity of websites and trust. Practical influences were the ‘easiness to navigate the website’ and ‘confidence in financial security’.
Medication history-taking requires a new approach with 1:4 women purchasing medication online. This study presents a unique contribution to knowledge using TPB to identify predicting factors that influence a pregnant women’s intention to purchase medication online. This research knowledge is important to health professionals who need to get safety messages to mothers using targeted information and robust evidence.
Date of AwardJun 2020
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment for the Economy & Southern Health and Social Care Trust
SupervisorMarlene Sinclair (Supervisor), Huiru (Jane) Zheng (Supervisor) & Patricia Gillen (Supervisor)


  • Pregnancy
  • Medication
  • Online purchasing
  • Theory of planned behaviour

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